School Design Awards

One of the nice things I am involved with is being part of the national school design awards evaluation panel. My job is to sift through the entries and comment on how well they have incorporated ICT for learning, and engaged the students as part of the stakeholder engagement process (clue here is the word ‘process’, as opposed to the word ‘event’!)

This year I can honestly say the quality of entries was exceptional. The eventual entries recommended to the final judges were each capable of winning outright. It is fortunate that we didn’t have to make that call!

The awards ceremony is to be held at the Emirates stadium in June and I am really looking forward to if! A chance to put on the black tie outfit, but also to meet the people behind the visions for each school.

The picture shows the evaluation in full swing. It was a tough day, but extremely worthwhile. I can’t say who the winners are (yet) but watch this space… Or the space on the BCSE website 🙂

TES Conference, Olympia

On Friday I had the great pleasure of speaking at the TES conference at Olympia, to a group of primary headteachers and practitioners about implementing personalised learning in their settings. All too often, personalised learning is considered as appropriate for secondary schools when in fact it is applicable to all phases of education. My turn at the podium was an opportunity to consider this in more detail.

The points I raised were the background of the personalised learning debate in England, how personalised learning fits with other systems and structures in schools and what tools are available to support the introduction and embedding of personalised learning in primary settings.

I drew from the work of David Hopkins’s 2007 book ‘Every school a great school’ (Open University Press) which clearly discusses the processes that have been happening in educational reform and offers suggestions for how the process of change can be taken further. Building in examples from around the world, during my time at Ultralab, and adding in a fair smattering of my own opinion about how virtual learning environments, as they currently stand, are not going to support personalised learning without a great deal of effort on bealf of the teachers who use them.

Far from being pessimistic, the situation couldn’t be more full of opportunity, but dismissing some of the myths and dispelling rumours is necessary before schools will be able to move towards implementing systems rigorously enough to really embedd the processes required.

Building Better Schools

A little while back (27th June, in fact) I attended the British Council for School Environments (BCSE) conference and ran an interactive session with the delegates. The session used some neat tools, including the SMS Messaging system developed by Cleveratom (now called MobiStick), but the purpose was to open up the dialogue relating to some of the issues surrounding the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) processes. The session helped gather thoughts and ideas to inform the BCSE response to the Education and Skills Committee report “Sustainable Schools: are we building schools for the future?” Read more

BCSE Seminar 2008, Building Better Schools, BSF

Friday 27th June was the date for the BCSE seminar at Westminster Academy where architects, construction companies, designers and all interested in the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) Programme met up to look at some of the issues they all face.

Cleveratom were there to provide an interactive session and encourage the delegates to ask questions. To do this I worked with half of the group (there were just too many delegates to fit in one room) and used the ever improving SMS tools that we are developing. The current incarnation is dubbed as ‘Walls iStream’, meaning text that is streamed onto a wall… Hais has been refining the interface and making it more linear than the previous versions, although we see a space for both in the future. The current version looks like this:

Walls iStream screen capture

What we have seen is that architects are desperately keen to get the design of new schools right, and that they are under immense pressures from a number of different angles to confrm in one way or another with guidelines that limit the way spaces can be developed.

The BCSE event served to really highlight some of the issues to a wider audience and encouraged wider dialogue between people involved in BSF work.

Ty Goddard is the director for BCSE and is known as a strong campaigner for good design in schools. The responses from the event will be used to inform a document to go back to the Select Committee and let them know what is happening ‘on the street’. This is no easy task and there are many diverse views to consider.

The blog site for the seminar is and you might like to sign up there and continue (or engage in) some of the dialogue as it unfolds. Participants at the seminar are particularly encouraged to make their views known (and felt) but anyone with an interest should have a sign in and join in the debate.

BCSE, British Council for School Environments, Industry Awards 2008

It is a great honour to have been asked to help evaluate the entries for the first BCSE Industry Awards and on Friday I received a pack of entries from three categories: Innovative design for Primary Schools, Innovative Design for Secondary Schools and Best Architect. I have spent the weekend reading these and am confident that the formal evaluation day (Tuesday 27th) will be extremely difficult. The quality of the entries appears to be very high indeed and choosing the top entries will be no easy task.

It speaks volumes about the quality of the designs for new schools around the country, and the opportunities that thousands of children are getting now that they weren’t getting before. I’m delighted to be involved in BSF work throughout the country and once again it has been emphasised to me just how important this work actually is.

I can’t say which of the entries will go forward to the final evaluations, of course, but I can comfortably say that innovation is thriving!